Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Liefling, die Movie

Bottled ambition...

December vacation proves a bounteous time for students as they leave all the worries of work and education in favour of relaxation. One such student, Jan (Bobby van Jaarsveld0 discovers that this holiday period is a life changing event when he meets Liefling Marais (Like Berning), the daughter of his professor. Jan is instantly intrigued by Liefling and begins to court her, unaware that Melanie (Marlee van der Merwe) has her eyes on him.

Modern Afrikaans cinema is generally divided into two categories: the more conservative dramas that provide an expose on Afrikaans culture and the liberal comedies that are fairly risque in nature. Liefling, die Movie tries a different approach as a musical, as it attempts to balance both traditional Afrikanerdom while appealing to the youth. The story is lighthearted and easy to follow, but it wavers with poor development, both in terms of the narrative and characters. Characters are never built up beyond stereotypes, though they are given an alternate perspective to help build some depth, and any development they do have is entirely rushed. This impacts on the story as it becomes difficult to appreciate the relationship between Jan and Liefling as ti is glazed over: the film tries to imbue the characters with a Romeo and Juliet sense of intellectual and instantaneous love but it never really clicks until much further in the film. Their are secondary love stories taking place simultaneously, though they are predictable and unnecessarily take away screentime from the couple that matters.

The acting is, on a whole, a stronger quality of the film, but not by much. Primary characters have enough zest for you to care about them while secondary characters merely enjoy themselves instead of really gelling with the material. This is not entirely problematic as the casual nature of the acting does go hand-in-hand with the carefree atmosphere provided. It is difficult to pick out individuals as no one really outshines anyone else. That said, where Bobby and Lika lack in experience, they make up for in energy.

As expected of a South African film of this kind the film quality is lacking. It is factor that can be overlooked but this does not stop some strange choreography choices. There is the odd scene among every few songs which comes across as downright silly in comparison with the rest due to lazy editing and poor choreography. Thankfully, this occurs only occasionally as the remainder of the film is filled with musical segments, though they are lacking in passion when compared to the likes of High School Musical or Phantom of the Opera.

While this may seem strange to say, there is just too many musical numbers and very little downtime between them. At many intervals a handful of songs will be packed right next to one another with little context connecting them. In fact, there is such an urgency to cramming the film with songs many scenes which should include basic dialogue become musical. One such scene revolves around Liefling being awaken by her mother just for her to break into song about how she wishes to have a husband and that only an Afrikaner man will do. Yes, it ends on a humourous note, but it shows the inability of the filmmakers to strengthen the music with some normative dialogue sequences.

While more conservative than liberal, Liefling, die Movie is pretty much void of any objectionable content.

Liefling, die Movie is an intriguing avenue of exploration for Afrikaans films in a commercial sense for the entire South African audiences. One need not be Afrikaans to appreciate the simple story and music presented, but the film is not without some glaring issues which hold it back. The accumulation of too much music is the biggest culprit which effects the rest of the issues: characters are underdeveloped fail to accompany the lighthearted story into something more. That said, Liefling, die Movie is by no means a poor film, but one which is drowned in the overzealous enthusiasm of its creators.


Screen date: 21 November 2010
Release date: 19 November 2010

(Movie poster provided by iGeek)

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